“join body and sleeves into yoke”

A Bold Beginner Knits tutorial for the Upstream pullover

When you are knitting your first sweater an instruction to “join body and sleeves into yoke” might appear especially bamboozling. You have, on your needles, one body and two sleeves. How on earth do you combine these three separate tubes so that they magically become one yoke-shaped tube?

Well, just remember that your arms and torso are also three separate tubes that magically become one around the shoulders. And, just like your torso, the arms and body of your sweater connect together at the underarms.

In your Upstream pattern, you will have followed instructions to set stitches aside at the underarms of both body and sleeves. It’s the underarm gaps created by these set-aside stitches that enable your three tubes to be joined together simply and effectively into one.

When joining the yoke in the Upstream pattern, you are instructed to knit half the back stitches, knit the left sleeve stitches, knit the front stitches, knit the right sleeve stitches, then finally knit half the back stitches, and place a marker for the new start of the round. Your three separate tubes have now been transformed into one single circular round.

The first few rounds after the yoke join can be a little tricky to knit, because there’s not much ease around those underarm joins. You can manage this as you approach the tight underarm areas by simply pulling out your needle cord between the stitches (allowing a loop to form). Knit across the tight areas with the loop drawn up, and you’ll then find your needle cord will naturally un-loop and pop back into place when the stitches ease up again. You’ll only need to draw up the needle-cord loop for the first few rounds.

As the circumference of your yoke decreases, you’ll then find it easier to switch to shorter needles (or needle cords) to keep the stitches moving smoothly around the needle. If your stitches start to look stretched out, it’s time to reduce the length of your needles to accommodate the reducing circumference of your yoke.

A circular yoke is essentially a spiral, in which each subsequent round builds up on the last, so there’s always going to be a wee jog at the start of each new round. That jog bothers some knitters more than others, and there are several things you can do to minimise its effects. Because of the way the slipped stitches rise and fall in waves around the Upstream yoke, that start of round “jog” is largely absorbed by the visual effect of the pattern, so it isn’t a big problem. If you want to ensure you minimise the “jog” effect, I’d suggest you just take extra care to wind your yarns around each other and keep your knitting nice and even when you are joining in each new shade. Then after working the first few stitches of each round with a new shade, check the back of the work and give both old and new yarns a wee tug to tighten them up.

Follow the instructions for your size when working each decrease round – then – before you know it – you’ll be binding off the neck ribbing. The final stage is to graft together those two sets of underarm stitches that you set aside before you joined the yoke – and then – admire your work!

Happy knitting!

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